I used to play internet card games regularly. Freecell was my choice, and I saw it not as frittering time, but a way to engage the problem-solving, analytical part of my brain. There were days when I'd play Freecell before writing, to loosen me up, so to speak, and days when I played Freecell between writing spurts to switch gears and shake things up. Some days I played as a wind-down, a way to transition from writing to real life. I didn't see the habit as a problem.
Because I saw Freecell as a metaphor for solving problems that sometimes require fresh perspectives, my routine was to play until I won. When I reached a point where I was stuck, I undid every move I'd made and went back to the beginning and started over. Sometimes I won the first time, sometimes it took longer. The fact that I had worked through a problem that had otherwise stumped me said something. It told me there were no problems I couldn't solve, only that sometimes I had to backtrack to the beginning and start over if I wanted to find the proper solution. Not a particularly bad lesson to learn, right?
About a year ago, I was growing increasingly aware that something about my existing life was off. I knew what it was, but I'm very good at convincing myself otherwise, so that's what I did. I maintained my routine and focused on things I could control and ignored the warning signs.
One night, I played a game of Freecell. I kept hitting a wall. Backtrack. Start over. Rinse. Repeat.
For forty-seven minutes.
I was frustrated. The more I started and hit a wall, the more harder my personal life problems were ignore. I equated the card game with whether or not my life would get back on track. When I finally won, after I-lost-count-many number of do-overs, I was filled with euphoria.* I had triumphed! This meant things would work out! This meant I had an active role in the outcome of problems with which I was faced! This meant I just needed to take a few steps back and figure out a new way to progress!
This meant I had wasted forty-seven minutes playing internet card games.
The only thing I controlled at that point was my time, and playing/replaying the same card game wasn't something I'd file under "best use of forty-seven minutes."
It occurred to me that perhaps I have a problem not letting go of things that aren't working. Jobs, relationships, card games. I'm a card-carrying member of the bang-your-head-against-the-wall-in-frustration club, though I am often (always) ecstatic when I land on the eventual solution to my problem. But wasting time, on this particular night, in this particular manner, was a red flag. Time is precious. Do something with it.
You think I gave up internet card games, don't you? No, I had something better in mind.
If playing the same game until winning taught me something, then I needed a new lesson plan. So I instituted a new rule: play for five minutes. Quit the game if I don't win.
Learn to walk away from things that aren't working.
This is where I'm at. It's not easy for me to walk away from things that aren't working, but it's an important lesson to learn. I suspect having read that this is a Capricorn trait has not helped me much! But I do believe we can change and evolve. Don't you?
In life, just like in Freecell, we have to work with the cards we're dealt. Sometimes we're flush, and sometimes we're playing 52 pickup. Sometimes we go all-in, and sometimes we have to put on a poker face and make the best of things.
And sometimes a card game is just a card game. An enjoyable way to spend time without overthinking things. I think this may very well be the biggest lesson of all.
P.S. If you like short pieces like this, you may enjoy BONBONS FOR YOUR BRAIN. Click here to find out more!
P.P.S. If Mermaids are more your speed, you may like my upcoming mermaid mystery, TAILS FROM THE DEEP. More here!